CRYSTAL FALLS, SUNDAY, November 24, 2013 – Television BTB is a fragmented wasteland of garbage and TV up here is even worse because there are so few people and such a lower advertising base. This morning I watched a rerun of F Troop, which was running in prime time when I lived up here in 1966-70. Very, very odd. And this morning I was treated to last night’s news from Marquette, which really bollixed my sense of reality. Were they talking about Sunday’s weather, or what? Weird. After ten days of patrols up here, a few observations, and they are only that, observations of small-ball observations, not things to be generalized across the board:
1. Last winter was very, very tough on the deer herd. There was snow still on the ground in Iron County on May 13. It is the late March, April and May snows that take the biggest toll on deer. In the past wildlife people have said an average winter kills 100,000 deer, and a bad one upwards of 200,000 or more. This was surely upwards of bad, and hunters and officers report seeing fewer fawns than usual. We had the same experience in the eastern UP.
2. Very few hunters out this year. Every year seems to have fewer. The DNR says the biggest growth in licenses, percentage wise is among females, but I haven’t seen this and neither have the officers I talked to. It may be that the distaff element does not partake of the deer camp tradition as much as males do, and that they do their hunting closer to home in mornings and evenings before and after work. But in terms of seeing women and girls hunting, just not seeing it, and what I’ve seen has not changed in 13 years in trucks. When we do see kids, they are often hunting unsupervised. It’s as if they take hunter safety and then just do what their families have always done. When I do hear of kids hunting, apart from the very few I see, there are tales of 5-6-7 yr. olds hunting and shooting deer with their mentor. Something about this rubs me wrong too. In the old days over in the Eastern UP and across the river in Soo Canada, young boys went with pop and older brothers and uncles, etc, but were there merely as physical labor and once they hit 12 as gun bearers. They did not start actual hunting until they were older. Their training consisted of following blood kin around. I don’t know, but a six year old shooting a deer? Can he or she distinguish the diff between actual killing of a deer and an electronic game? No opinion, just a rub in my gut.
3. As has become normal, I saw no African American hunters up here this season, or Asian Americans, or Hispanics. Over 13 years I’ve seen 10 black males, 8 in one group over 13 years. Handfull of Asian Americans and Hispanics in that time. Not sure this means anything because down where my mom is from in Mississippi lots of black folks (her neighbors) hunted and fished with my mom’s dad and her brothers. Maybe this reflects socioeconomics and more effects of the recession? Just asking. Seems if pro-hunting groups are serious they need to expand their efforts from women and kids to skin colors other than white. Maybe they are? If so, I’ve seen or heard nothing about it. Also then makes me wonder what the racial makeup of NRA membership is.
4. Crystal Falls Forest Park lost yesterday in the high school football state semifinals, ending their season at 12 and 1. Their girls volleyballers lost Thursday night , also in the state semifinals. Great seasons for the Trojan jocks and jockettes. Great job, players and coaches. The Ishpeming Hematites won yesterday and will play in the state Division final next week, as will the Menominee Maroons in Division 5 (I think that’s the div). Great job by UP teams all. Seemed sort of sad to play their games in the warmed Yooper dome instead of outside in da untrammeled snow, eh, the way we did back in da day.
5. The last two days of patrol weather was anything but pleasant, yet the officers were out there pressing forward. Downstate officers in most counties find it easy to find hunters and revelers. Up here you have to hunt for them, which add another element to the job. Down below, generally, there is a lot more traffic and contacts. No matter where you are game wardening, snow the a great gift from the Game Warden in the Sky.
6. I dread going back below and being exposed to all the political bullshit floating in the “politosphere.”
7. Lots of cops hunt up here. Not sure why.
8. The “theme” this year seemed to be loaded guns in vehicles. Every year is diff. We took only four illegal deer, which is down from a much higher average, but there is a week left in the season and more shenanigans lay ahead for sure.
9. If you like “wild” country, the western UP is the place for you, but please get off the paved roads and out of your vehicle to see the real beauty up close.
10. The wolf hunt has so far logged 10 animals legally taken. There have been some illegal kills, but at least two of these people turned themselves in because the wolves they shot were collared. A smart move, methinks.
11. Our COs are equipped with good trucks and communications, great clothing, etc, but every officer still needs to have in his or her possession an infrared scope and the newest generation of night vision. A few pieces at District HQ is not adequate for the job. If the state can’t or doesn’t want to pay, why not find a wealthy benefactor to take care of it and let the state pay for replacement equipment down the line? Just asking. There may be perfectly good reasons for the situation as it is, but being in the right side of the truck for a sustained period, night and day, I don’t see it. What I see is an unmet need.
All from here for now. Off today to see friends with dinner with some CO pals Monday night. The sun is shining, the wind finally down and the temp a sweaty 9 degrees. Snow on the ground, but only an inch or two down here in the south county, 4-5 inches further north. I suspect south of here will have less. Hope to get some good outdoor and wildlife photos over the next couple of days, but we shall see. If you’re hunting, be safe. If you’re a CO, be even safer. Over.